Boater’s Guide to Boston Harbor

A natural delight right on the doorstep of New England’s largest city, Boston Harbor is one of the most unique and enjoyable boating destinations in the Northeast.

Most of the harbor’s 34 islands are part of a national recreation area and are packed with historic attractions and beautiful scenery. The area is also extremely boater-friendly. The harbor itself is home to a marina, free moorings and many great anchorages. And many other marinas and services can be found nearby.

Boston Harbor is a busy commercial port with tons of marine traffic, so boaters should keep an eye out for everything from kayaks to container ships. The harbor also has a number of sandbars, ledges and mudflats. But the area is well-marked, so boaters should be fine if they take it slow and pay attention. Also, the harbor is a designated No-Discharge Zone, but there are 35 pumpout facilities in the area.

The only marina in the harbor itself is Spectacle Island Marina (http://www.bostonharborislands.org/#!beaches-boating–fishing/c17du; 508-830-5095) on Spectacle Island. There are also 20 public moorings found throughout the islands. Six are near Spectacle Island, while others are close to Long, Peddocks, Gallops, Georges, and Rainsford Islands. To contact the harbormaster, call 617-343-4721 or use VHF 9.

Many other marinas and marine services can be found on the mainland. The Marina at Rowes Wharf  (www.themarinaatroweswharf.com; 617-748-5012) on the Boston waterfront has 35 slips and free dockage for diners at the Rowes Wharf Grille or Meritage Restaurant. Constitution Marina (www.constitutionmarina.com; 617-241-9640) is a large facility in Charlestown with 300 slips and is an easy walk to Boston’s North End. Boston Yacht Haven (www.thebostonyachthaven.com; 617-367-5050) has luxury slips for vessels of all sizes on Commercial Wharf, plus luxurious accommodations in onsite suites and penthouses. Marina Bay (www.marinabayboston.com; 617-847-1800) is a full-service marina on Dorchester Bay in Quincy featuring transient slips, fuel, and it is home to several onsite restaurants and shops.

Boston Harbor is filled with fun activities for boaters to enjoy. The area is popular for sportfishing, and has striped bass, bluefish, cod, flounder and more. Early in the season, good striper spots include Faun Bar off Deer Island, Hospital Shoals off Rainsford Island, and The Narrows between Georges and Lovells Islands. Later in the summer, the big fish move to deeper waters off the Graves, the Brewsters and deep ledges outside the harbor.

Lighthouse and history enthusiasts will want to tour Boston Light on Little Brewster Island, which is the oldest light station in the United States. The current light dates back to 1783 and it’s the only lighthouse in the U.S. still actively staffed by the Coast Guard. On Georges Island is Fort Warren, a Civil War-era fort that once served as a prison for Confederate officers and government officials.

Nature lovers will enjoy exploring Spectacle Island, which has more than 100 acres, including a hill 157 feet tall and several miles of trails boasting amazing views. And on Lovells Island, visitors can camp in view of the Boston skyline.

You can find more information about visiting Boston Harbor at www.bostonharborislands.org.